Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombings: Helping Our Children Move Forward

The Boston Marathon, which takes place each year on Patriots Day, has long been a day of celebration, joy, and team spirit. We celebrate the elite runners, delight in the joy of thousands of ordinary people testing their mettle to accomplish an extraordinary feat, we support and cheer friends and colleagues who organize teams to raise money for causes near and dear to them. But at this year's Marathon, the incomprehensible and unconscionable acts of terror-minded individuals turned celebration and joy into horror and anguish.

The summer months are a stone's throw away which means family outings to sporting events, Fourth of July celebrations, and the like. So, how do we help our children feel safe in light of the bombings at the Boston marathon? How do we, their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caretakers feel safe?

Like the instructions we receive when traveling with a child onboard an airplane — put on your oxygen mask first before assisting the child — we have to get our emotions, our state of mind under control first. We cannot tell our children that everything will be okay if in our next breath we are illustrating our fear and anxiety in words and actions to others around us. Remember: kids hear and see much more than we think they do.

How do we move forward and help our children to do so? We teach them that the actions of those two small-minded men represent nothing more than a speck of inhumanity compared to the heroism of the hundreds of first responders, EMTs doctors, nurses, and ordinary folks who ran into the fray to help. We explain to them that the actions of those two cowardly men represent nothing compared to the bravery of the hundreds of wounded who must reach deep inside and find the strength of character to redefine their lives and live courageously, albeit differently. We show them that the actions of those two men represent hatred in the hearts of the few rather than the love and grace in the hearts of the many. In other words, we show them by example.

As President Obama reminded us in his message at the Interfaith Healing Service on Thursday, “Like Bill Ifrig, 78 years old, the runner in the orange tank-top who we all saw get knocked down by the blast, we may be momentarily knocked off our feet. But we'll pick ourselves up. We'll keep going. We will finish the race.”

This is a vital lesson for our children. There will be times and events in life that knock us off our feet, that rattle our emotions. Challenges in life build character. We survive and thrive through the friendships we make, by reaching out and helping others, by maintaining a hopeful outlook, and by understanding and accepting that change is part of life.

Written for KidsTerrain. Reprinted with permission.

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